Friday, July 10, 2009

The Great Scape

If you planted a hardneck garlic variety last fall, you might have started to notice weird curly tendril-like growths coming out of your plants. If you haven't already, you'll want to snip those off at some point. They are called garlic scapes, and will turn into a cluster of bulbils (mini garlic bulbs), and letting them grow will sap the garlic bulbs growing underground of energy and make them smaller up on harvest. The time to snip them is when they grow into a full circle, although some say you can pick them earlier. Last year, I picked mine when they first started coming out, and the plants sent out a second scape, which further sapped the bulbs of energy. So I waited until they were fully curled this year.

Scapes in the garlic patch.

One scape, freshly picked.

After you pick them off, not only will your hands smell like garlic all day if you neglected to wear gloves (as I did), but you might wonder what you should do with the scapes. Sure, you could compost them, but if you are growing garlic, chances are you're a garlic lover, and scapes are most definitely edible.

Several scapes ready for preparation.

I think of garlic scapes as a garlic version of green onions; they taste of mild garlic instead of onion, but have a fresh "green" flavor. They are good in almost any scenario that a green onion tastes good in, but they are unique and can be used in other sorts of recipes. I've cut them into 1/2" pieces and adding them to green salad, potato salad, and pasta salads. They are great in a stir fry. I've seen recipes for pesto and other sauces. Really, the only limit to using scapes is your imagination. So don't let them go to waste!


Here are some up-to-date pictures of my garden. We had almost a straight month of rain, so my tomato plants are fairly stunted, as are the peppers and eggplants. One of my coworkers mentioned that her tomatoes were almost three feet high, because she kept them under row covers. Next year, next year. My hopes for this summer aren't dashed yet, though. The sun has come out for three days this week, and the weather forecasters seem a bit more optimistic of late. We've got plenty of summer left!

Here is the garden from the same perspective as previous pictures. It looks pretty good, despite the cool weather. Peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, and other warm-weather-loving crops could definitely be doing better, though.

Tomatoes - the big "ringer" plants are doing great (we've had a few cherry tomatoes off two of them already!). The smaller heirlooms which I started myself are doing variably well - some are large, but several are very tiny (my Green Grape is one inch tall, but somehow hanging in there) and about 8 plants died. Luckily, the "up for grabs" table in the cafeteria had some tomato seedlings on it this morning, plus a couple of Goldie husk cherry seedlings, of which I have one growing (you need two for pollination).

The potatoes LOVE rainy, cool weather. I need to get more compost to fill the cans to the top - they really took off while I was away for a week. So far I'm pleased with the cans, but these will be some expensive potatoes - my yields better justify the costs.

The beans are starting to tendril up the trellis. On the left side of the two A-frame trellises, you can see little cucumber plants - they need some sun, 'cause I want to make pickles!

Squash on the left side of the trellises, peppers in front. These plants are stunted too, but have grown almost visibly in the couple of sunny days we had this week. Soon they'll send up tendrils and climb.

This is my first year growing sweet potatoes. The slips were very tiny, and I think the rain has helped them get a good footing in the garden. They are starting to leaf out, and I imagine they'll start to run (vine out and take over) soon - I'd better set up another trellis! And there's Mr. Slug (or one of his myraid relatives) in the background, heading for a snack. I have quite a few slugs in my garden, but they don't do much harm. We also have plenty of catbirds and sparrows and starlings in the yard, and I think they do a good job keeping the slug population at bay.

The onions, shallots, and, of course, garlic are all doing well. Tomatillos and eggplants in the foreground could use a little more warm weather. Let's hope it's on its way.

I hope you're all having good luck in your gardens!!


Unknown said...

I appear to be having the same results as you. I'm from MA and my pepper plants aside from two JalapeƱos are just there. The broccoli is huge but only one head can be seen. Corn is smaller then it should and my bean plants are slowing coming back. Lettuce, arugula, and spinach have been the only things really sticking to their time frames. to be honest I fear that again I will produce little to no peppers.

Here's hoping for some good heat.

Country Girl said...

Great post. I am going to make a pesto with my scapes. Our gardens are doing going I just posted some pictures tonight. ~Kim

the webmaster at Johnny's Selected Seeds said...

It's become more sunny, which hopefully means more warmth. Mark, I hope your peppers take right off!

Kim, thank you! I hope your pesto turns out well!

Kelly said...

I am right there with you Mark. Anything that wasn't under a cloche initially is just wasting garden space at the moment. And I won't even get started on my melons!

I really enjoyed mulling over the garden photos in this post, I am very curious as to how your potato crop will be too!

Heidi said...

I feel so sorry for your plants, June was no friend to my garden either (planted cucumbers twice) but things have finally decided to take off. I will eat my first beans next week, I'm sure.

My pride and joy is my fennel, I wrote and asked questions about it in February. I started Orion and another variety at the end of March in peat pots, transplanted it Memorial Day weekend, and it is bulbing up nicely. I had a few "extras", that I couldn't bear to cull, so I just planted them in the ground between the rows. They've done little or nothing, but the ones in peat pots look amazing. They even survived a woodchuck attack. Now I'm not sure how long to leave them, should I harvest as soon as they start to send up flower spikes?

the webmaster at Johnny's Selected Seeds said...

Thank you Kelly - I'm so glad you like the pictures. I will take some more - it's neat for me to see how the garden progresses.

Heidi, I found an interesting page on fennel here: Basically it says to hill the fennel with soil when the bulb is the size of an egg, and break off the seed stalks to allow it to grow.


Unknown said...

I am from MA and my bell pepper plants have been stunted too. This week finally warmed up and they grew a little (not much though). They are starting to flower but I am afraid the plants are not large enough or mature enough to bear fruit yet. Should I prune the flowers off and let the plant grow some more?

the webmaster at Johnny's Selected Seeds said...

Whoops - I somehow missed your comment tmbeck1.

I would leave the flowers - the pepper plants will continue to grow, as long as the hot weather keeps up, and the fruit will grow fine with them. It's really up to you, though - the plant will flower again; its ultimate goal is to create fruits with seeds in them.